Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

J Street Shakes Things Up: There's a New 'Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace' Force on Capitol Hill

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

J Street Shakes Things Up: There's a New 'Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace' Force on Capitol Hill

Article excerpt

IT HAS BEEN around for less than two years. But "J Street," which bills itself as a "pro-Israel and pro-peace" organization, has already made a big splash in Washington.

Why the fuss? Because, for the first time ever, a pro-Israel Jewish organization convened in Washington, D.C., not in support of the Israeli government's policies but in opposition to them. Additionally, it will raise money to support friendly politicians and to defeat Middle East hawks.

J Street opposes the occupation and supports a Palestinian state. It wants the U.S. government to push hard for an immediate settlement freeze as a prelude to full-scale negotiations. It believes that supporting Israel means not obstructing efforts to achieve a viable Palestinian state, but promoting them.

J Street has already made itself a force in Washington. Its first annual convention in October 2009 attracted 1,500 supporters from around the country. Gen. James Jones, President Obama's national security adviser, addressed the crowd and said that he stood with J Street. One hundred and forty-eight members of Congress endorsed the conference, while 44 came to the dinner on the last night. The media was in attendance in full force and coverage was extensive and positive.

But the big question is what happens next. Now that it is clearly on the map, will J Street retreat to a safer position or hold firm? After all, it is being denounced by both the traditional Israel lobby and by the government of Israel (the Israeli ambassador boycotted the event, unlike the Jordanian ambassador, who came and delivered an address). …

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